80-year-old environmentalist and social activist, Chandi Prasad Bhatt was presented the Gandhi Peace Prize by President Pranab Mukherjee at a function in Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Tuesday, 15th July 2014. It carries a plaque, citation and an amount of Rs one crore.
“The Prize is an expression of our belief that the ideals that Mahatma Gandhi espoused are part of our collective living heritage,’’ the President said in his speech. “This heritage is deeply imbued with the idea of being ‘one people.’ It is a celebration of our diversity, our plural culture, our many languages, religions and different modes of life. This was the idea that moved those who strove for India’s freedom. Our deep and abiding commitment to democracy stems from this idea. We continue to be guided by these ideals; we remain committed to them not because it is our past, but because it is also our future,” he said.
Praising Mr. Bhatt for his dedicated, tireless and invaluable work for the conservation of the environment, Mr. Mukherjee said as a life-long Gandhian, his work embodies a unique love, a love that has long since become universal. “It is a love of nature and nature as encompassing entire creation. The Chipko movement started by him in 1973 followed the same method of peaceful and non-violent Satyagraha for the redressal of the legitimate rights of the hill people to collect wood and fodder and saving them from natural calamities owing to large-scale deforestation.”
In honouring Mr. Bhatt, the President said the countless women and men who became trustees of the nature and who through their embrace expanded “our Swaraj” are being honoured.
A Gandhian and a member of the Sarvodaya movement, Mr. Bhatt organised the Dashauli Gram Swarajya Sangh in 1964. He dedicated himself through the Sangh to improve the lives of villagers, providing employment near their homes in forest-based industries, and fighting against wrong policies through Gandhian non-violent satyagraha.
In the past the Prize has been awarded to President Julius Nyerere, President Nelson Madela, Vaclav Havel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Baba Amte among many others. Ramakrishna Mission and Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan are two organisations that have also been conferred this honour.